Image Is Everything


Nothing impacts the aesthetic of your website more than the images it displays.

First time visitors form impressions of your site in as little as 50 milliseconds (or 1/20th of a second), to determine whether they like your site or not and whether they’ll stay or leave.

Having the wrong images on your site could cause visitors to ignore or become confused by your content and weaken your brand.

So, “What makes an image right or wrong?” AND “What are the key components of a good-looking website?” A good starting point for this discussion is to look at some general guidelines for using imagery and graphics in web design:

  • Use an image style guide

Consider developing a “Brand Style Guide” that describes and gives examples of the images that best support your business. Anyone developing your online or offline advertising and marketing campaigns should follow this guide.


  • Stick within a style

Images can be presented in a variety of styles – such as saturated color, black and white, motion blur, focus on faces, etc. Make sure the images you use are of a consistent style.  Mixing up image types will weaken your brand message.

  • Avoid the obvious

You’ve seen them a million times…the businessmen shaking hands, a multiethnic group of employees smiling at a company meeting or the overly attractive sales/ support/customer sales representative.  Marketing strategist and social media speaker, David Meerman Scott, describes companies who use photographs of happy, smiling models to represent themselves as, “Just silly…It’s almost like telling a lie about your company.” Site visitors are savvy enough to recognize stock art. It cheapens your brand.


Stay away from this!
“Portrait of two happy business people shaking hands with each other”

  • Add your own branding or graphics to stock art

Add an overlay of your company logo, descriptive text or icons to alter purchased stock art. This will help to customize the image.

  • Think out of the box

Try using images that represent what your company is about or the services you offer in a different way.  Consider using pictures of your actual employees instead of models.


Try thinking outside of the box when creating 404 pages Source:

  • Evoke emotion

Are you trying to look vintage? Are parents your main target market? Is your site designed in a minimalist style? Choose the image that doesn’t only display the right situation, but also the right mood and atmosphere.

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 9.12.21 AM

Check out this awesome infographic from KissMetrics to learn how to cultivate emotional engagement in web design

  • When selling a product, show the product

When you’re selling a product ask yourself: “What’s the main reason people will buy this?” Once you know that answer, put that in an image… or a few images, and you’ll notice those images will help convert visitors into sales. Take Apple’s Macbook Air, which highlighted its main feature by pulling the product out of an envelope to emphasize its small, light size.


What types of stock art can I choose from?

You can choose from two types of stock art: clip art and rights-managed art. These terms refer to types of licenses that gives you permission to use stock images in certain ways. 

  1. Clip Art

Royalty Free, Pre-drawn pictures, icons, graphics and symbols.

Clipart by Picsburg -

Clipart by Picsburg –

  1. Royalty Free

Royalty free refers to a type of license that gives you permission to use a stock image in certain ways. Royalty free means you are not required to pay a royalty each time you use an image and once a license fee is paid, the images may be used many times without paying additional fees. The cost is often based on file size, the number of permitted users and other factors.


Royalty Free image ‘Friends having a round of drinks in a pub’ 

  1. Rights Managed

With rights-managed images, your right to use the image is typically restricted, with limitations placed on things such as duration of use, geographic region, industry, etc., as established by your license agreement.  



  1.  Go for Original graphics/ photos

If you have the budget, hire a photographer and assemble your own collection of original photos that relate specifically to your business and contain subject matter that your audience can quickly recognize.



Follow us on Pinterest to check out our collection of unexplainable, amusing and down-right bizarre stock photos that we post weekly. These images are so bad that we cannot conceivably imagine a situation where someone would feel compelled to lay down hard cash for them. Enjoy our collection of terrible stock art and send us the worst stock art you have ever seen; we might choose to feature it next!


The guys over at do an awesome job at pointing out the immense flaws in stock photography. Check them out on Getty Critics.

How do you feel about imagery’s impact on web design?

What stands out to you when you look at the use of photos and images across the web? Are there strategies or techniques that you find to be particularly effective?  Find examples of website imagery you like to share with your web designer.

Need assistance choosing the right images for your business website? Contact our web design team for a free consultation and learn how to make your business stand out online .

Richard Parr
by Richard Parr
Posted: June 5, 2013